Zen Gardner posted one of his wonderful cheerleading pieces today. About how every thought, word and action, indeed, every gesture, every breath we take, affects/influences the local and global morphogenetic field in some way or other. So, LOVE!
Yesterday evening, I was driving home with my new housemate Brie after a wonderful potluck meal with the new hOUR Bloomington TimeBank folks. 27 people are signed up so far, though only ten showed up for the second monthly potluck.
Brie and I were in an expansive mood, talking about how one of the benefits of timebanks is that we meet people that we would otherwise not come across in our daily lives. That, once our local timebank gets going, if it’s anything like the wildly successful timebank in Louisville (over 500 members now! — it jumped into prominence via an ABC report by Diane Sawyer, a Louisville native), then a year or two from now we will be interacting with an incredible diversity of people. “Good,” said Brie. “It will help ground me here.”
Brie then wondered about homeless people in Bloomington. These are certainly folks that neither of us connects with on a regular basis — though I did find myself spontaneously gifting the remainder of my Chipotle lunch to a “homeless veteran” after another interesting group meet two days ago — this one the monthly member-forum with other Bloomingfoods owners who want to stay in touch with and participate in the great transformation that our beloved legacy co-operative is presently undergoing, in order to remain competitive with both the new (corporate) Lucky’s, and, coming in 2016, Whole Foods.
The man was sitting there with his sign, glassy-eyed and downcast, outside the restaurant. I was carrying my leftovers carefully back to the car. Seeing him, my arm just reached out. He gratefully accepted the food — still with its plastic fork!
So, will he and others who live precariously “on the street” without homes here be able to sign up for the timebank? Well of course, they can, if they use the library computers, and visit them regularly. But how many will want to? That remains to be seen.
Synchronicity at work! This morning I picked up the local paper, and discovered a wonderful story about one homeless man, and various local people’s and organizations’ (including the police) subtle, long-term, patient efforts to reconnect him to life and loved ones. How can we not LOVE, when we read such a beautiful story?
July 13, 2015
by Forrest Gilmore
During the winter of 2014, I came across a man at the eastside Barnes & Noble’s. Matted hair, torn and dirty clothing, an unshaven face, he had the distinct look of a chronically homeless person. He cast an aura of kindness but also extreme privacy. I caught a vibe of fragility and a touch of fear. So, I let him be.
I learned later that he had been sleeping at the local laundromat and spent the days in bookstores and fast food restaurants. No one knew him and he wasn’t using any services.
I spoke with caseworkers from Centerstone to see if they could track him down, but they were unable to find him.
That spring, we hired Virginia Hall as a street outreach worker (thanks to the support of city and federal funding). Her first day I told her to, “Go get him.” And she did.
She began just with simple conversation.
“Hi. My name’s Virginia.”
He would speak with her, but barely. She would sometimes invite him to Shalom, but he would respond, “They’re coming for me. They’re coming for me.”
While progress was slow, we were elated when about a month later he walked into Shalom for the first time. He came in, had lunch, didn’t say a word, and left quickly.
The next day he stayed a little longer, and the next, until he started to spend his entire day at the Center.
Fearful of scaring him away, we let him move at his own pace. We offered him clothing, new shoes, blankets, a place to store his things. He usually turned us down, but occasionally would accept something from us. Virginia considered getting socks on his feet one of her biggest victories with him.
He started to ask for magazines and would occasionally be reading one and laugh out loud.
Michael (not his real name) was always respectful, always responsive when we would speak to him, but he remained very distant and quiet.
Then, a breakthrough this fall – one of the Bloomington Police Department’s new downtown resource officers found his family online. Amazingly, she discovered an old Facebook profile of his. His photo cast a different image of this man, clean-shaven, trim, clear eyes. His last entry, a joke about how to have pickles on your sandwich without soaking the bread, was 3 years ago.
Through Facebook, the officer was able to find Michael’s mother and brother, both in Indianapolis, who were elated to finally track him down.
We learned Michael was an Iraq war veteran. We learned that he had been staying with his father who had left him at the McDonald’s on the east side. He told Michael he would come back for him once he started taking his medication, explaining Michael’s “they’re coming for me” comments and his reticence to leave that side of town.
The police and Chase Techentin, our other street outreach worker, arranged a surprise meeting (so as not to scare him off) between Michael and his brother and mother.
The family arrived, and Michael’s brother sat down with him at a restaurant and convinced Michael to come home with him. Chase told me Michael’s mother said, “You will never be on your own again.”
This story, of course, moves on from here. Michael has a lot of healing ahead of him that will begin with a stay at the hospital, and his family has to learn how to be with him and all his challenges.
But, thanks to an amazing community partnership, he’s home again, reunited with his family.
The work of ending homelessness can be slow and arduous, but moments of heart-stirring transformation like these make it all worthwhile. Thanks to you and your support, this is why we do what we do.